Tory claims for astrology CD

This is one of those moments that sets one’s outer liberal at war with one’s inner Richard Dawkins. Bosworth Conservative MP David Tredinnick’s expenses reveal he spent £210 on astrology software from, it appears, “Crucial Astro Tools” and £300 on tuition from the same company to learn to use it.

The Voice has come by the text of an email he sent to a constituent explaining the claim:

Thank you for your email about my claim for consultancy services from Crucial Astro Tools. As you may be aware I have a longstanding interest in Parliament on the subject of Integrated Healthcare / Complementary and Alternative Medicine. I was at that time considering improved regulation for Group 3, Alternative Disciplines as set out in the House of Lords Select Committee on Science and Technology Report, “Complementary and Alternative Medicine”, ( HL Paper 123/1999-2000) In particular I I was looking at the relationship of Astrology to Indian Ayurvedic medicine and wanted to see if I could relate it to English Herbal medicine as taught by Culpepper who considered all plants to have Astrological correspondences. To do this I needed to improve my understanding of Astrology.

I explained to the Fees office in advance why I wished to make these claims and they were agreed because of my longstanding interest in Complementary and Alternative medicine and my file noted to that effect.

I hope this is helpful.

Actually, what am I saying. Richard Dawkins slam dunks it, doesn’t he. Incidentally, cc’d into the email thread was one David Cameron (Libra, the balance) – did he maintain his equilibrium on reading the above, one wonders?

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42 Comments

  • I’m not sure why anybody would think Richard Dawkins illiberal, particularly not if they’ve actually read “The God Delusion” or many of his other works – in TGD he even dedicates a chapter to defending the teaching of religion in schools!

    Dawkins to me comes across as the ideal liberal – he robustly objects to something, can back up his objection with both scientific data and compelling rhetoric, and then goes on to say that if people want to support this thing then that’s their business but they shouldn’t be allowed to force it on others and they shouldn’t get special perks from the state for doing so…

  • Dave Page is right. I’m mystified at the popular image of Dawkins as a hard-liner. His response to nonsense is measured, moderate and appropriate. All he’s doing is advocating *reason*, for goodness’ sake: why do people find this so objectionable?

    As far as I can tell, people think of him as strident only because he challenges beliefs we’ve all somehow come to think of as sacred, even if we don’t happen to share them. You can criticise someone’s deeply held political beliefs, but for some reason you can’t criticise their deeply held religious beliefs. What, when it comes down to it, is the difference?

  • LiberalHammer 24th Jun '09 - 8:26am

    Alix,

    I fail to see what is ‘Liberal’ about defending astrology, and spending taxpayers’ money on pernicious drivel. Astrology is not harmless as some might claim. In this instance it is being used as a substitute (not an alternative) to medicine.

  • So any MP could in theory claim for something related to “a long-standing interest”, even though it is patently unrelated to any of his parliamentary duties and responsibilities?

    Say an MP has a longstanding interest in amputee porn. So the Fees office would sanction a claim for him to attend an exhibition in Amsterdam? Sounds like it would be entirely feasible.

  • You cannot say Richard Dawkins is not liberal because he is not convinced by the pronciples of religion. I don’t know the guy but he seems pretty progressive on any issue that requires common sense, and I’m sure he counts a few members of the clergy amongst his friends. Dawkins would probably not make much distinction between religion and astrology. I know others have said the same; I had to add my voice.

  • Steve Jones 24th Jun '09 - 9:42am

    No – I’m not that Steve Jones, although I suspect his views on this might be

    However, I have to raise a protest. What on earth is this twaddle about Richard Dawkins views being illiberal? From a social level his views are impecably liberal and this item shows a fairly profound misunderstanding of what he stands for.

    Of course he is no friend at all of conservative (with a small c) fundamental religious interests, but many of those are in direct conflict with liberal (with a small l) views. I can only think that it is Richard Dawkins’ personal style is what is objected to. If not expressing views about irrational belief systems is a requirement to be considered liberal in any sense then heaven help us and maybe you should examine your own attitudes.

    As far as the astrology stuff goes – well that is clearly bonkers. But then we did reputedly have Nancy Reagan consulting the stars on behalf of her husband so at least he hasn’t got his finger on the red button.

  • There is a slight conflict on the Lib Dem membership card in not wishing people to enslaved by ignorance and conformity.

    Adherance to astrology and most complementary medicine is based largely on ignorance and in opposition to conformity.

    Richard Dawkins is a Lib Dem supporter and holds the somewhat absurd belief in the power of reason :-)

  • Alix Mortimer 24th Jun '09 - 10:35am

    Steve (and Kershan), as I said above, DP and latso made this argument very well and I held my hands up to sloppy thinking on the Richard Dawkins/illiberalism point, with the one reservation about the language and manner he tends to use.

    But please, feel free to carry on having a go at me.

  • “Richard Dawkins often uses very robust and aggressive language”

    typical Aries

    ;)

  • Alix Mortimer 24th Jun '09 - 10:40am

    Should have said “and Liberal Hammer” in first line.

  • Mark Pack: my (main) point is that if he used that kind of language about any other subject, nobody would bat an eyelid. We’ve somehow granted religion a license to get special privileges, not only legally but in ordinary conversation! We’re supposed to respect it and not call it nasty names, when nothing else gets the same privilege. When someone like Dawkins breaks this weird convention, it causes an uproar.

    Your point about using four ‘negative’ words instead of one is mystifying because those words mean *different things*. He is using them because of those meanings, not because they are likely to be considered negative.

  • Alix Mortimer 24th Jun '09 - 12:54pm

    Although there might be a defence of truth in that particular cause because bollocks in powdered form are said to have medicinal qualities in various traditional branches of alternative medicine.

    That’s all I meant when I called them purveyors of bollocks yer honour.

  • Alix,

    “I suppose the wider point I should have drawn out was whether I should be snorting at this story and calling complementary medicine as a whole bollocks or whether I should bow to diversity of lines of enquiry, open-mindedness etc. But, since it’s my money paying for this bollocks, the answer is clearly yes, I should be calling it so.”

    I’d put it slightly differently. Since there is no evidence that astrology works, it’s not a question of being ‘open minded’. We shouldn’t have to pay for something that is indistinguishable from bollocks. Personally, I call things that are indistinguishable from bollocks “bollocks”.

    Others might say I’m being closed-minded but a) they would be wrong (my mind is quite open – show me evidence that it works and I’ll change my mind) and b) that isn’t the issue anyway (since it’s clear that we aren’t getting value for our money on this software, the money should not have been spent.)

  • OK in a nutshell astrology=stellar c**p homeopathy=sugar pill c**p chiropracty=borderline bonecrunching c**p religion=many flavours of c**p crystal haeling=sparkly c**p need I go on ? I’m with Richard Dawkins and Ben Goldacre on this one and proud to say so. If you want an overdose of this crazyness have a look at http://www.timecube.com/ enjoy !

  • Alix Mortimer 24th Jun '09 - 3:12pm

    Latsot, this is all true. It’s just that my usual default principle is to doubt everything, even doubt itself, grasshopper.

    I can’t help it. Mobs baying for one thing just make me uneasy, whether it’s healthcare based on great lumps of rock whirling through space (as the late great Douglas Adams put it) or the unconquerable triumph of reason. I cannot but remember what people did during the French Revolution in the name of reason, for example. It’s always a danger sign when someone tells you to “examine your attitudes” as someone did above. “Or we will lock you up and re-educate you” is the silent bit I hear following it.

    So when I depart from my principle and find myself coming over all uncompromising and Richard Dawkinsish, I have to have a very good cause.

    And, as I said in the original piece, this is a good enough cause.

    And, as I also said in the bit that you quoted, astrology is bollocks.

    And, as I also said in the bit you quoted, we shouldn’t be paying for it anyway.

    Is there any risk we might consider all my caveats firmly in place now?

  • Alix:

    “Is there any risk we might consider all my caveats firmly in place now?”

    Yes. I was agreeing with you. I thought I was just stating the point you made in a slightly different way. My intention was to suppport what you said.

  • Alix Mortimer 24th Jun '09 - 3:46pm

    You see, everyone now has eleven disturbing mental images to process thanks to that.

  • Alix Mortimer 24th Jun '09 - 3:49pm

    Sorry, that was to James’ comment.

    And, sorry, yes, I see :-)

  • Alix Mortimer 24th Jun '09 - 4:34pm

    How do you know that?! Are you or have you ever been a teenage girl?

    Loving the google ads here – one for the Conservatives, one for an astrologer. Creaky old superstitions with no evidential backing really are taking hold in this country…

  • Hold Them To Account 24th Jun '09 - 5:22pm

    Could we possibly have some qualifying test for MPs along the lines of “your IQ should exceed 50″?
    Culturally-neutral test so that hothoused Eton morons couldn’t pass it. (Eton brainboxes could of course.)
    Hmmm… that would be one sure way to eliminate the Tories quickly.

  • @Mark Pack

    You’re running the risk of sounding precious, sensitive, querulous and uptight.

    Dawkins style can be combative, bellicose, pugnacious and contentious (okay, enough of that), but more often he is the soul of erudition and less often, usually in extremis, responding to some downright silly woo (you know – homeopathy, reiki, catholicism, that sort of thing). ;)

  • Your comment Scrotley seems to have generated some amusing Google Ads on this thread, ones which I’m sure Dawkins wouldn’t approve of :-)

  • Ha! I’m getting eHarmony dating at the mo. Google obviously has me down for a sad and lonely liberal.

    Damn, thought I was hiding that quite well.

  • Scrotley, you have put me to shame with your response. I was going to reply with something like “boo fucking hoo”.

    It’s unfortunate when people take offense at things that were never meant to be an attack in the first place, but even worse when others take it upon themselves to be offended on other people’s behalf. Is there anything more nauseating?

    As for Dawkins, I’ve met him, seen him talk in public a couple of times and on video dozens of times. He’s unmistakeably and unambiguously a *gent*.

    Gould occasionally got caught up in his own rhetoric and Dawkins was right to take him to task for it. Billions of others claim to know things they can’t possibly know (such as the existence of a god) and Dawkins is equally right to ridicule it. Such beliefs are by definition unreasonable and there is no imperative at all for we unbelievers to respect other people’s unreasonable beliefs.

  • Iatsot, you wouldn’t be totally wrong with your first response, and I entirely agree with the rest of your post.

    Fancy a date?

  • “Fancy a date?”

    Yeah, I get that a lot :)

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